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Previous Workshops

The series of 5 workshops each semester aim to lead the students through a creative process:

  • experimentation
  • reflection
  • research

Mae’r gyfres o 5 gweithdy bob semester yn arwain y myfyrwyr drwy broses greadigol:

  • arbrofi
  • myfyrio
  • ymchwilio

The 5 workshops enable the students to witness and ‘get’ for the first time, or ‘get’ again a creative process that can be the foundation of any creative project in any discipline. The students will be encouraged to learn how to apply this process to their own individual self – directed projects and their projects in other practice based modules.

Mae’r 5 gweithdy yn galluogi’r myfyrwyr i weld a ‘deall’ proses greadigol, am y tro cyntaf neu eu deall eto o’r newydd, a all ddarparu sylfaen i unrhyw brosiect creadigol mewn unrhyw ddisgyblaeth. Anogir y myfyrwyr i ddysgu sut i gymhwyso’r broses hon i’w prosiectau hunan-gyfeiriedig unigol eu hunain yn ogystal â’u prosiectau ar fodiwlau eraill sy’n seiliedig ar ymarfer.

Lost & Found

The word idea and species were once connected; one was greek and the other was latin, both are derived from the word ‘eidos’ which meant ‘the visible look’ or ‘outward form’ of a thing. Plato’s argument was that a thing, let’s say an oak tree, was the material manifestation of the idea of an oak tree, or the ideal oak tree, the material, animate, growing object, the tree itself subject to change, decay and death was merely a copy, a shadow of the real thing, whereas the pure idea of the tree was eternal, ephemeral and unchanging. Aristotle, Plato’s student, took the idea further by suggesting that the idea ‘eidos’ of an oak tree was not in any one singular oak tree but in the collective species, so the essence of an oak tree resided within all oak trees. So the Greek word ‘idea’ and the latin word ‘species’ came to mean a collective group of individuals that share a common form or essence.

The workshop series Lost & Found set out to draw together both the word and concept ‘idea’ and ‘species’. The students were asked to imagine a new species of their own design. A species that would adapt and survive climate change and mass extinction.

The purpose of the workshops was to encourage reflection on both the lost species, the endangered species and new adapted species that have and do share our biosphere. At a time of acute collective grief and anticipated change it was good to spend these weeks in lock down, contained in our respective zoom windows, like animals in a zoo, reflecting and as Donna Harraway suggests – writing and telling stories for our earthly survival.

The strongest influence on myself and many students was the exquisite documentary by Emma Davie and Petter Mettler on David Abram’s equally exquisite book Becoming Animal; An Earthly Cosmology.

Workshop Preparations

Workshop One

The students opened the packages I sent them…they each received an empty vial, a blank label and a blank piece of paper. They were asked to conceive and design a new imagined animal. To write the animals characteristics, behaviour, personality, habitat etc. on the piece of paper and to write the name on the label. I hoped that one of the final workshops would include the vials..

Lost & Found Workshop One – Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint – Saens – short video

Workshop Two

The students introduced their new species to the group..

The oil consuming Trench Jellyfish

The buz fox

The Tree Dragon

Lost & Found Workshop Two – Chris Watson Glastonbury Ocean Soundscape – short video

Workshop Three

Bouncing off everyone’s imagined animals the students went a step further and designed a collaborative project, workshop or performance for week 8, workshop 5. This week they each proposed & pitched their individual ideas to the group, and one was selected.

Workshop Four

Myself and the students presented research that related to the selected collaborative projects, workshop or performance. Each group decided on some related concepts: story, empathy, change, cell, nucleus, walking, map, found sound, connection, isolation, captivity..we looked at Hamish Fulton, Richard Long, Formafantasma, Cevdet Erek, Jack Foley, Alexander Scriabin, Amy Karle, Michelle Banks, Jasper Johns, Aboriginal watering holes, Ben Burrt, David Bowie, Edward Hopper, Ai Weiwei etc..

Workshop Five

The final week, the week of the collaborative workshops, projects and performances.

Group 1

Anna created a 10 minute mediation, which guided us into the consciousness of our imagined animals. We then went for a 30 minute walk carrying only a marker and blank sheet of paper, we were asked to draw our walks (unsighted) while trying to stay in the consciousness of our imagined animal. On returning to the workshop in zoom, Anna collected the photographic documentation of our drawings and created a collective cell, our collective animal cell was called ‘Bopledict’. We were then all asked to creatively respond to the Bopledict Cell in the remaining 30 minutes..

The Bopledict Cell..please visit the Lost & Found page for group 1

Group 2

Tim created a workshop based upon found and made audio. ‘Conversation Pieces’ was a collaborative exchange and dialogue of sounds that represented our imagined animals. Across the great zoom continent we conversed, we riffed and jammed and then devised pictorial scores and edited compositions..

Conversation Pieces..please visit the Lost & Found page for group 2

Group 3

Nidhi and Richard’s acting and illustration (drawing) workshop led us to try and experience our animals both free and in captivity. Inspired by the experience of being in zoom classes all semester, all individually locked and captive in our windows and in our screens, Nidhi wanted to translate this to an exploration of imagining our animals in captivity.

Semester One


Forager & Farmer

An update on our acorn/oak trees : April 2nd 2021

After a dormant winter, sitting and looking rather sorry for themselves in the empty Creative Arts studio, while only Farrah and Anna’s acorns had sprouted, it is amazing to see so many our acorns sprouting and leafing now. They seem very happy in their new home in the sun on my patio; a hot bed of creativity and growth!

Experiment – The first workshop aims to give the students an opportunity to fully and freely explore a new and different theme/concept/topic with a range of materials, objects, words and spaces each semester.

Arbrofi – Mae’r gweithdy cyntaf yn gyfle i’r myfyrwyr archwilio thema/cysyniad/pwnc newydd a gwahanol, gydag ystod o ddeunyddiau, gwrthrychau, geiriau a gofodau, bob semester.

Workshop 1:

‘Forager and Farmer’ Workshop 1 of Nature + The Acorn.

We planted 25 acorns, that we hope will grow into 25 mature oak trees.

Once an oak tree is 20 years old it can produce 2,000 acorns a year approx.

Only one of those acorns will grow into an oak tree, but they can produce acorns for 700 years.

So if our 25 oak trees grew for 700 years our Creative Arts oak tree wood could, if it were allowed to proliferate freely, grow to be a wood of 17,500 oak trees, wow what a wood that would be!

When our oak trees are 10 years old they will each absorb and store 0.10lb’s of carbon per year, thats 0.250lb’s of carbon per 25 trees and 1750 per 17,500 trees

When our oak trees are 20 years old they will each absorb and store 0.70lb’s of carbon each year, thats 1.750lb’s of carbon per 25 trees and 12,250 per 17,500 trees

When our oak trees are 100 years old they will each absorb and store 62lb’s of carbon each year, thats 1550lb’s of carbon per 25, 10, 85,000 per 17,500 trees

2,240 = 1 ton – so our 25 trees will absorb and store about half a ton when they are 100 years old

The average American citizen is responsible for 19.8 tonnes per year, the average Chinese person averages 4.6 tonnes, the average UK citizen is responsible for 13.1 tonnes per year.

So we can offset about half a month, 15 days of one persons carbon footprint with our 25 trees when they are 100 years old

In 2006 the uk emitted 585.71 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide from the consumption of burning fossil fuels, in 2019 the figure was 351.5 million….

So is growing our tiny acorns and potentially tiny wood a complete waste of time?

Well if the art students at MMU also grew 25 trees that would off set a whole months worth of one persons carbon footprint

If Bath Spa art students and Liverpool John Moores art students also grew 25 trees each that would off set 2 months of one persons carbon footprint..

If 24 schools of art in the UK each grew 25 oak trees that would off set one persons carbon footprint for a year.

And this isn’t all about us right!? a 100 year old oak tree can be the habitat for 280 species, Oak forests provide a rich habitat and support more life forms than any other native trees.

My answer is how about we get other art schools to do it!? lets start a campaign..

And how about we reduce our individual carbon footprints too!?

Experimentation and Reflection – The second workshop aims to give the students an opportunity to reflect on the first and previous weeks workshop by continuing to develop ideas that surfaced and manifested in workshop 1 and during the week.

Myfyrio – Mae’r ail weithdy yn gyfle i’r myfyrwyr fyfyrio ar y gweithdy cyntaf a gynhaliwyd yr wythnos flaenorol drwy barhau i ddatblygu syniadau a gafwyd yng ngweithdy 1 ac yn ystod yr wythnos.

Workshop 2:

Workshop 2 of Nature + The Acorn.

On long scrolls of paper on the floor the students brainstormed alongside some experimental work to arrive at their collaborative student led projects and workshops for workshop 5, week 8. The guest in the room was Oaky, as part of my ‘Living with my Oak Tree’ week long performance project I was taking my oak tree everywhere I went, so it had to come to class!

Propose and Pitch – The third workshop aims to give the students an opportunity to conceive and devise a project proposal for a collaborative project based on the ideas they generated in workshops 1 and 2. The proposals are pitched to the group, one or two projects are selected for week 5.

Cynnig a dethol – Nod y trydydd gweithdy yw rhoi cyfle i’r myfyrwyr lunio cynnig ar gyfer prosiect cydweithredol yn seiliedig ar y syniadau a gynhyrchwyd ganddynt yng ngweithdai 1 a 2. Bydd y cynigion yn cael eu cyflwyno i’r grŵp, a bydd un neu ddau o’r prosiectau’n cael eu dewis ar gyfer wythnos 5.

Workshop 3:

Workshop 3 of Nature + The Acorn.

All the students pitched their proposals for the student led collaborative workshop in week 8. Workshops/performances/installations/sculptures etc. were pitched to the group with the help of the swipe board and a few props. Group 1 chose Anna’s destruction/construction cyclic clay modelling workshop/performance/film/installation proposal. Group 2 chose Weronika’s collaborative tree painting proposal which is to be made from collected leaf prints, sticks and natural pigments. Group 3 chose Amy’s Covid face mask painting workshop which has evolved to also be an awareness raising public performance. As always the proposals were surprising and diverse.

Research – The fourth workshop aims to give the students an opportunity to present research related to the selected collaborative project, the research must be from the students own discipline interests. The successful project will be selected because of its clarity, refinement, definition, feasibility, do-ability, it will be a project that can involve everyone, has been developed through a process of rigorous experimentation, reflection and research, reflects the initial starting point and will fully engage a potential audience.
Ymchwilio- Mae’r pedwerydd gweithdy yn rhoi cyfle i’r myfyrwyr gyflwyno ymchwil sy’n gysylltiedig â’r prosiect cydweithredol a ddewiswyd; rhaid i’r ymchwil fod ym maes diddordeb y myfyrwyr eu hunain. Bydd y prosiect llwyddiannus yn cael ei ddewis oherwydd ei eglurder, cywreinrwydd, manylder, dichonoldeb ac ymarferoldeb; bydd yn brosiect a all gynnwys pawb, a ddatblygwyd drwy broses o arbrofi, myfyrio ac ymchwil trwyadl, sy’n adlewyrchu’r man cychwyn gwreiddiol ac a fydd yn ennyn diddordeb cynulleidfaoedd posibl.

Workshop 4:

Workshop 4 of Nature + The Acorn.

This weeks workshops took a slightly different turn – Group 1 & 2 presented their research online in a Teams meeting so there are no photos to show from these sessions and then Group 3 did a preparatory workshop for workshop 5 instead of research. The research that Group 1 & 2 was fantastic, I love this session each semester because I learn so much and get to enjoy the scope and breadth of the students interdisciplinary interests. The session with Group 3 was also fabulous – relaxing while energising in terms of the images and statistics that we were painting onto the masks. Amy had prepared for her selected project beautifully and we managed to paint an image each and 30 slogans, sadly 3 students were missing so we are re- thinking workshop 5 and the public performance because we felt at the end of the session that the 30 masks won’t give us a strong enough impact in the public realm. Thanks to Richard our painting was accompanied by Plastic Beach by Gorillaz. Some Kind of Nature featuring Lou Reed was particularly apt.

Experiment – The fifth and last workshop aims to give the students the opportunity to collectively realise a collaborative project that has been conceived, devised and proposed by a student.

Arbrofi – Mae’r pumed gweithdy, a’r un olaf yn y gyfres, yn rhoi cyfle i’r myfyrwyr gyflawni prosiect cydweithredol ar y cyd, a luniwyd ac a gynigiwyd gan un o’r myfyrwyr.

Workshop 5:

Workshop 5 of Nature + The Acorn.

Group 1 – Construction/Destruction

This was the last of the 5 workshops titled Nature + The Acorn. In workshop 1 students were invited to find and plant an acorn, along with a lecture on trees, vegetal oncology, plant consciousness, plant blindness etc. they then moved on to brainstorming, experimenting, researching and pitching ideas for a collaborative project.

The winning proposal for group 1 was a collaborative project designed by Anna Musiol; Anna asked us to sit in a circle and set up our phone cameras propped up with white tack to record our own individual video’s. We were given a lump of clay and instructed to create a form in one minute and then pass it on clockwise to the person to our left. When we received a new clay form from the person to our right we had to break it down and re- form it and so on…we continued the process of construction and deconstruction until the lump of clay we originally started with was returned to us. Below is the Go pro footage filmed from above and an edited composite of all 7 films edited by Anna Musiol (to be uploaded).

Group 1 – Paper Memorial

We knew we would have time for two projects in this session so the second winning project proposal was designed by Mayu Maruyama. Mayu asked us to write a memory in pencil on a piece of A4 paper, a memory ideally connected to the theme of nature and or relating to the workshops or lecture on nature so far in the semester, we then glued one edge of the paper and rolled the paper into a pillar, we repeated this process of writing, gluing and rolling as many times as we wanted to, to create strong pillars that would stand upright and alone. We then arranged the white pillars on the floor of the project room and lit them with a studio light. We all agreed with more pillars and larger, smaller, taller pillars etc. this could grow to be a dynamic and powerful memorial installation.

Group 1 – Creative Arts Compost

We also selected a project that would be ongoing throughout the rest of the semester, this project was designed by Anna Serafin. Anna asked us all to top up the collective compost with our freshly peeled fruits and vegetables and washed egg shells when we came into the studio to generate a rich and fertile compost to feed to our oak tree saplings when they are re-potted or planted in the earth in spring.

Group 2 – Seven Trees in One

The winning proposal for group 2 was a collaborative project designed by Weronika Cuczka; we were all assigned a tree, we were all asked to collect leaves from that tree before the class. Weronika and Sally made pigments from natural materials including raspberry, blackberry, paprika, curry powder, slate, seaweed etc. We were shown how to mix the natural pigments with egg yolk, clay or gum Arabic, We then painted and printed from our leaves to create a collective, natural and ephemeral one off tree painting. The film above is the speeded up Go pro footage filmed from above.

Group 3 – Wash Don’t Toss

The winning proposal for group 3 was a collaborative project designed by Amy Hamlett; Amy asked us all asked to find and pick up single use face masks off the street (safely) we were asked to wash them and bring them into the class. Amy and other students brought in hard hitting images and statistics relating to single use mask pollution, with an emphasis on sea contamination and marine life destruction – in relation to our locality. We each painted a white washable mask to wear and then painted poignant and striking statistics, relating to the production and waste of face masks since Covid struck in March, on the disposable masks. We wrapped Richard and Farrah in the masks attached to elastic, much like marine life has been found entwined and suffocated by the elastic on the masks on the ocean bed. Sadly many of group 3 didn’t attend the last two workshops which is challenging because when the students design and pitch their projects they do so with the full class of 7 – 8 in mind, so the number of masks we had collected and the number of bodies we had to perform/walk didn’t make the impact we could have done, or wanted to do, but despite this as we walked quietly around the town we felt we made enough of an impact to incite conversation, staring, photographs and we hope – some learning and behavioural changes.

Week 10:

Week 10 was our last in person studio session – the re- potting the acorn/oak trees ritual

I asked the students to reflect on the last 7 weeks of their creative development in line with the effort and energy that the acorn has been expending over 7 weeks while its been trying to root into the earth of its little pot and send out a stem to grasp for light.

Like other nuts, an acorn is a seed, an embryonic tree-to-be wrapped in a hard shell. But only the lower end of an acorn’s innards is occupied by a rudimentary root and stem; the rest is nutritive tissue loaded with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Its purpose is to sustain a sprouting seedling until the infant grows green leaves and can stock its own larder via photosynthesis. But far more often than not, a forest creature gobbles the nut and its stored nutrients first or in our case the temperature, the lack of or abundance of water, the size of the pot, the lack of light etc. can all inhibit or stunt growth, or maybe its the case that some acorns are just not meant to be trees while others are? Whatever the case there is always next year!

While holding their small pots I asked the students to reflect on their semester, their creative hopes and expectations at the beginning of the semester, I asked what were they thinking and feeling when they found and planted their acorns back in October. While holding their new large pots, re- potted acorns, I asked them to reflect on where they are now in week 10, to reflect on the twists and turns, successes and failures of their creative journey. Then I asked them to apologise to themselves and their acorn, to say thank you to themselves and their acorn and to make a simple single promise or intention for moving forward.

Week 11:

While most of the group are busy getting their projects ready for the Winter Show and our classes have been discussions centred around last minute tweaks, I moved the acorns/oak trees to the window sill in the hope that the extra little bit of light will encourage more of them to burst out of their shells..they seem so slow..but 2 have made it and that gives us all hope. Its amazing that after 8 weeks we have 2 oak trees!

And sadly these acorns didn’t make it – this time – but there is always another year…